It was with amusement that I read the 'vela special' edition of the local newsie on Apr 13, 2007.
The 'vela' is the annual festival in our local temple. It's a great opp for the locals to socialize, for those far away to re-unite and for the newly-rich to flaunt all their new toys.
Not long ago, our village - called Puthur - was a haven - a place where we actually felt like family. We had elderly people to approach when advice was required, friends to kill time with, and above all, our Goddess who kept us in good shape. Peace.
And then, time changed everything. Except the Goddess.
People went to the 'Gellf'. They built big houses and drove big cars. They stopped studying - why waste time when the oil mine spews cash? They drank expensive booze. They married rich women, who brought in more money. And all this sudden wealth had to be displayed. What better place to do so than at the temple, where everyone was sure to notice?
The latest cheap stunt was the material printed on the newspaper. Probably anticipating that noone would pay for material worth less than the paper it was written on, the proud fools distributed it for free.
The 2-sheet avatar of trash was covered with news about the local 'ungills'. Photographs of the authors - as big as the all-foam-and-no-beer articles themselves, competed for the reader's attention. To be fair, a couple of the articles were indeed scholarly. But for the most part, the paper had stupid rich men talking about the history of our village, the current who's who list, members of the temple committee - all stuffed up somewhere in the mess of carbon. Which was all good for publicity.
Except that they got all their facts wrong.
Anyone who lived the village for some time knew how well the articles were embellished. The boozers determined that their fellow boozers and their families were 'authentic' locals. The rich smugglers who donated more to the temple were the people to be proud of! And several not-so-vain families that had actually lived there for over a hundred years were quietly sidelined.
Hear this - someone donated Rs.35K to the temple for the festival. Another 'Gellfie' saw this and I guess his ego just underwent brain surgery - he ran back home, returned with Rs.55,555, and promptly donated the money.
Sometimes it makes me wonder how far people will go to get some attention. It is a universal truth that everyone wants to be loved and appreciated. But how ? And at what cost ?
I guess that's the problem with having no education. It shows up as a lack of culture and common sense. Noone in the village thought of getting somewhere on merit and earning publicity. All they could do, was to buy some really desperate journos and have them print utter nonsense. They even made God an instrument for their vanity ! How cheap is that ?!
Oh, and before I sign-off, here is another piece of trivia. The locally unemployed men - which includes most of the local men - are the largest supporters of the breweries in Kerala. No matter what the occassion, everyone boozes. People can be born or dead, married or divorced - let the booze flow, yeah !
The icing on the cake was when my grandfather expired a few years ago. As per our traditions, there is a ceremony on the 16th day of death, which helps the departed soul rest in peace. All the belongings of the deceased are disposed of, and it is a very sorrowful event. The catch is, it needs a 3rd-party to be present, someone who is not related to the deceased. We approached an elderly local, around 60 yrs old. He consented, and on the eve of the ceremony, he sent home a piece of paper - it simply said '12 bottles of chilled beer'.